GM- Knowledge, How In Depth Should It Be?

I had a notion for most of my career that to become a General Manager of a hotel I needed to know the intricate ins and outs of every department, area, etcetera.  I believe that notion was the driving force in my career experience and not having the confidence to go for it before I did.  Now, having been a GM for some time, and speaking with colleagues I realize how very wrong I was.  While you need experience, I am not saying you do not, you do not need to be an “expert” in any one area rather have a solid understanding of it.

As I transition from one hotel to another as a General Manager, here is what I have learned from my first role that I will use as a guide on my future, hopefully, this will help you as well.

  1. Much of my career was spent in large hotels with complex operations requiring you to jump from thing to thing, get it done, and move on.  In my first GM role, I had a smaller, simpler yet no less time-consuming property.    Here, I struggled early on.  I am not a micro-manager by any means however, I struggled with the balance between micro-managing, thinking I needed to do everything myself, and delegating the appropriate amount.  I am an over-achiever for sure and having spent so much time learning specific areas of the operation, many times, I thought I knew better or because the operation was smaller, I could just “handle it”.  This is where I was wrong.  I believe I may have alienated some indivu=iduals around me and caused them to become disengaged.  I saw after some time what I was doing and backed off.
  2. Now that I had backed off, I had a new struggle, how involved should I be?  Should I be on every distribution list, should I require reports, what should I do?  Here, I struggled with perception, I thought if I did not require all of these things, the team would think I did not have the knowledge.  Additionally, I thought they perceived me as not caring, which in my mind was worse.  I was seeing early on that all of this was a delicate balancing act.  I believe I have perfected this, I receive just what I need.  Periodically I dig into to the details to keep everyone on their toes, no one ever knows what program I will look into, a report I will run, or area I will walk, it works for me.  The right level is achieved over time with the right team and systems and procedures in place.
  3. Understand enough about each subject to be able to ask questions, intelligent questions, and when your questions may not be intelligent, preface it with “forgive my ignorance”.  This particular learning is what debunked my notion completely.  I realized as much as I tried, I did not know everything but knew enough to be involved in the conversation and ask questions to gain a better understanding, enough to make a decision or provide direction.  I use the example of my revenue management knowledge- I do not know how to put together a displacement document or the day by days for a budget but I know how to read them.
  4. Trust, this is the toughest one.  While you should not place all of your trust in someone early on, you should not distrust them unless they have given you a reason to.  In my experience, it is rare for someone to truly have malintent.  I needed to trust people would do what they need to do and that it will be done to the best of their ability.  Should it not be, it is my role to assist them, help them grow, and be successful.  Holding those accountable around me in a way holds me accountable as well to being a leader.

I realize how much I have become a teacher.  I realize how much I have become a collaborator.  I realize how much I have embraced my strengths and worked on my weaknesses.  I realize how much I have grown.

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